How Far Can You Hike in a Day?

If you don’t have much experience on longer hiking trips, it can be difficult to know how far you can hike in a day. With so many variables in terrain, fitness, pack weight, and speed, you may be wondering about how far you can travel in a day of hiking. If you want to gain a better understanding of how far you can hike in a day, you’re in the right place. Keep in mind that different trips will mean different pacing, but you can always roughly estimate how far you’ll travel, and how fast.

If you plan to hike for around 8 hours (Excluding rest) on relatively flat terrain you can reasonably travel at 16-28 miles a day. On mountainous terrain or other challenging scenarios that number will be much lower, but generally, it’s a good estimate. Most hikers travel at about 3 miles per hour, but factors like weather and fitness level may make that number higher or lower. If you’re carrying a significant amount of weight that number will also be driven down, so do your best to account for the variables of your trip.

Naismith’s rule

Naismith’s rule is a tool that helps calculate travel time on a hiking route. It was created by William W. Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, and skier who put up many of the first ascents, and was among the chief founders of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. His most known achievement was the creation of Naismith’s rule, which has helped large numbers of hikers determine travel times. The rule breaks down to:

1 hour/ 3 miles of travel + 1 hour for every 2000 feet of additional elevation

The rule’s 1 hour for every 3 miles is based on primarily flat terrain. It can be adjusted to the distances and levels of ascent for your hike, the above numbers are just the base rule. There are several modifications for the rule to factor in fitness levels, primarily declining hikes, fitness levels, and more. It’s also important to note that this rule generally estimates the minimum time of travel, not accounting for breaks.

Hiking Endurance

Your physical fitness levels play a huge part in your distance hiked in a day, but it’s perfectly reasonable to aim for 25 miles if you maintain a fast pace with little breaks during a day. Most people can reasonably aim for 16-25 miles in a day, but if you’re concerned about hiking long distances, plan for shorter training or test hikes in which you test yourself. 25 miles in a day may sound daunting at first, so it’s alright to aim for something like 10 miles in a day first and work your way up. It’s perfectly alright to start with shorter distances, even below 10 miles. Hiking is a very personal sport. You’re competing with yourself, and you should make your adventures reflect your abilities and aspirations.

It’ll take time to move as fast as you want to. On average, experienced hikers can cover around 30 miles a day. That’s a great goal to work up to, but you aren’t going to start at that pace. Working up to greater hiking distances also trains your feet to hold up to the punishment of longer treks on foot.

With a lower level of fitness, hikes will take a greater amount of time. If you are planning a trip that requires a good deal of distance to be hiked quickly, it may be a good idea to train beforehand. We have other articles with plenty of great information on training for hiking, and what muscles you generally use on the trail.

Pack weight

A heavy pack will make any hiker travel much slower, so packing correctly is essential if you want to travel quickly. A common myth is that you should not carry more than 20% of your body weight, and a day pack should not exceed 10% of your body weight. Do your best to aim for this rule, but there’s no need to feel like your trip will be ruined if you’re carrying a bit more.

This is a good rule to work off of, but it isn’t definitive because hiking and outdoor sports are often so situational. You may prefer to take more items to increase comfort or preparedness.

For a longer trip, you’ll be carrying a bit more gear, and managing your pack weight is more crucial. If you’re on a long-distance backpacking trip that will last several days, it’s more imperative that you trim the fat and trend toward necessities. On shorter trips only lasting 1-3 days, you have a bit more room to carry extra items, but generally, it’s still ideal to pack light, especially if you wanna travel fast. This is also the reason ultralight hiking is so popular, reducing weight can make your trips faster, you can cover more ground, and be more comfortable doing so.

How Can You Hike Faster?

Packing light correctly is a great start, and one of the major factors that will affect your pace. There are other things you can do to improve your speed as well, and good footwear is a must if you want to hike fast. Lighter footwear is generally better, especially if you want to push the pace. Approach or trail running shoes are a great option for this. It also comes down to personal preference.

I enjoy a good pair of hiking boots, despite the heavier weight. This is part of the reason that practice hikes and putting in time on the trail is good, as you’ll discover what you like to use. Alongside footwear, a good pair of socks will help prevent damage to your feet. Brands like Darn Tough offer durable, merino wool socks that keep your feet feeling good, despite high mileage.

Trekking poles or staff are also a great option. While not necessary, they can distribute your weight. Some hikers don’t like them, especially being that they’re just another piece of gear, and more weight to carry.

They can be a great tool, as you can get some weight off your feet and legs, and assist in difficult situations uphill or off-trail. In a pinch, they could even be used to set up a makeshift tent.

Again, this comes down to personal preference. I don’t generally use trekking poles or staff, but they’re spectacular when navigating something like a difficult river crossing. Try them out sometime, especially if you’re having a lot of foot pain or difficulty in rugged terrain.

Conclusion

There are lots of good equations to estimate hiking time, and there’s plenty of information out there about the general paces of hikers on popular trails. While these are great tools, only you can know your pace. The best thing you can do to estimate your pacing and hike faster in a day is to hike more. With all the information and gear in the world, you won’t hike faster until you go hiking more.

Whether you’re in tennis shoes with a beat-up backpack or decked out in top-of-the-market ultralight gear, you aren’t going to hike very far in a day if you don’t get out there more. It’s also important to remember that there’s no reason to be down on yourself if you don’t keep the pace you’d like. You’re only a bad hiker when you begin littering, damaging nature, and endangering others. Always do your best to keep safe, and enjoy yourself. If you leave things better than you find them and push yourself, I call that a good day out.